WHEN former Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson was arrested on a public drunkenness complaint in November 2006, many probably assumed the once-troubled player had simply gotten into trouble again. But that wasn't the case, and Thompson set out to prove it. Police who responded to noise complaints at an Oklahoma City hotel that night said Thompson was belligerent and smelled of alcohol. He was arrested after arguing with police for several minutes. Thompson said he was only arguing because they told him he and his group had to leave the hotel. A city judge found Thompson guilty and fined him $69, after five witnesses testified Thompson hadn't been drinking and that no alcohol was in the room. Thompson appealed and recently the state Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction, saying the city hadn't proved Thompson was drunk in a public place. "A lot of people thought it was a small matter in terms of a fine, but it was a big matter in terms of my reputation,” Thompson said. As a Sooner, he made national headlines in 1989 when he was arrested for selling cocaine. He went to prison, then finished his playing career at an NAIA school in Ohio. He returned to Oklahoma and for years has been involved in youth sports. He also speaks to schools and youth groups about his past. "I knew I was right on this one. I knew I had to stand up,” Thompson said. No doubt this is one victory he'll savor.
Expensive memoOklahoma City Manager Jim Couch made a controversial decision last year in the wording of a memo to city employees regarding religious-themed Christmas displays. The memo cost taxpayers $20,000 in attorney fees. We question what the attorneys did to warrant such a fee, and this adds to the cumulative evidence that lawyers never really lose with a case. Nevertheless, Couch had to eat his words and clarify that the ban on Christmas displays was intended for common areas, not personal workspaces. Two employees took umbrage with the memo and sued the city. A settlement resulted in the $20,000 award. This could have and should have been handled without a lawsuit, but it wasn't. The free speech rights of city workers are valuable — and now we know they're also costly.
Reaching too farA lawmaker is reaching a bit too far with a bill that would require anyone arrested on a felony complaint to provide a DNA sample to law enforcement. House Bill 3059, co-authored by Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, is headed to the full House after being given committee approval this week. State law already requires convicted felons to provide a DNA sample. But there's a huge difference between an arrest and a conviction. Civil rights concerns, not to mention the cost — about half a million dollars just to set up the system — leave us hoping House members will turn thumbs down to this idea.
The search is onOklahoma City natural gas producers are drilling up a storm. Led by city-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., local gas producers have helped push the nation's rig count to historic levels. Former Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode, now head of the gas industry group American Clean Skies Foundation, said 81 percent of the 1,173 active rigs are searching for natural gas instead of oil. "This validates what we have been saying about production and exploration for natural gas increasing, not declining, as others would have us believe,” Bode said in a news release. In addition to Chesapeake, local firms Devon Energy Corp. and SandRidge Energy Inc. are running rigs at a brisk clip. Chesapeake alone has 141 active rigs, according to rig count compiler Baker Hughes. Of the 20 most active firms in energy exploration, all but three are independents like Devon rather than "major” oil companies.
Tar Creek triumphSen. Jim Inhofe had good news this week for people wanting to move out of Picher and other areas in the Tar Creek Superfund site. Inhofe, R-Tulsa, announced that the Environmental Protection Agency will fund the buyout of homes and pay for soil and water remediation in the area. Buyout offers at Tar Creek ended last year when federal money was held up by congressional wrangling. This new plan is expected to eliminate the need to go back each year to request the necessary funding. Inhofe got the ball rolling with EPA by inserting a provision in a water resources law last year. It took the senator a long time to buy into the concerns at Tar Creek. Since then, though, Inhofe has been a determined and effective leader in efforts to assist those who wish to move elsewhere.